Welcome to the World Cap of Hockey, a new series that dives into international waters and projects what a tournament featuring six national team rosters would look like today if each national team was required to be compliant to the NHL's salary cap structure. The six teams in this series will be Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland and a group consisting of top Europeans from nations such as Slovakia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, and each roster must fit under the current $81.5-million cap hit using only players currently under NHL contract.
Today, we break down Team Finland.
With hockey shuttered around the world, there isn't much on-ice action to which we can look forward. That's especially true internationally, as the only major IIHF event still on the calendar is the men's World Championship. And while that is presently set to take place in Switzerland this May, the expectation is the event will get the kibosh sooner rather than later.
Even if the event is cancelled, however, this is the point in the campaign when we would be beginning to get an idea about what the rosters would look like. Many European teams, such as Finland, play in various international tournaments throughout the year to prepare for the 16-team event. But per our rules for this make-believe-but-still-a-fun-idea-for-an-event tournament, Finland can only choose from players on NHL deals. It's an interesting wrinkle, too, because the Finnish roster boasted only a handful of big-league talents when the nation won gold at the World Championship one year ago. The Finns do have quite the array of full-time NHLers to choose from, however, with 51 Finnish-born players skating in the NHL this season, just under half of those full-time NHLers. That narrows it down a bit, but the challenge with putting a roster together like this is cutting worthy players in order to save some cap space.
Up front, the top line of Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho and Mikko Rantanen features a mix of speed and skill, with Teravainen and Aho an obvious duo thanks to their chemistry in Carolina. Down the lineup, a superb set-up man such as Aleksander Barkov can benefit Patrik Laine on the second pairing, while Roope Hintz's hard-working nature adds balance to a talented top six.
On the blueline, the Finns are fortunate that Miro Heiskanen is just a sophomore. His entry-level deal prevents him from breaking the bank and makes it easier to keep a player such as Rasmus Ristolainen and his $5.4-million cap hit aboard. Heiskanen's teammate in Dallas, Esa Lindell, is the only other defenseman with a cap hit over $3 million (his deal pays him $5.8 million), but his strong two-way, physical play makes him an important asset. And while Sami Vatanen is sure to make in the $5-million range when he hits the open market this summer (or fall, who knows at this point), that doesn't matter now.
In net, the Finns have to pay up to ensure Tuukka Rask is in the blue paint, but that influences their other decisions. Pekka Rinne would have been the first choice backup, but his $5-million cap hit is too rich for this roster. Joonas Korpisalo and his $1.25-million hit is far easier to stomach, and it doesn't hurt that he was an all-star caliber goaltender prior to an injury in December. Kappo Kahkonen impressed in a short stint earlier this year and is one of the more promising young goalies in the AHL, so he's a good fit at No. 3.
The toughest decision was leaving Nashville's Mikael Granlund off the roster. Sure, he's had his difficulties with the Predators, posting just 35 points over the past 79 games, but he's a two-time 67-plus point forward who could bring some added punch. Leaving Ville Heinola off the defense corps – both as a valuable two-way defender, but also as a cheap cap hit – was tough, but being able to fit Markus Nutivaara will help the group.
Here is Finland's complete World Cap of Hockey roster:
Teuvo Teravainen – Sebastian Aho – Mikko Rantanen
Roope Hintz – Aleksander Barkov – Patrik Laine
Kasperi Kapanen – Erik Haula – Joonas Donskoi
Artturi Lehkonen – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Joel Armia
Miro Heiskanen – Rasmus Ristolainen
Esa Lindell – Sami Vatanen
Henri Jokiharju – Markus Nutivaara
Total cap hit (Per CapFriendly): $81,233,999
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